Context: Founded in 1960, the Universidad Centroamerica (UCA) in Managua, Nicaragua was the first Jesuit university in Central America. Until 2018, the UCA received mixed funding from the national budget and private sources and was regionally recognized for the professional formation and critical education provided to its graduates. As of August 2023, the UCA was providing an education to 5,400 students through 16 undergraduate majors, three masters programs, and a law school. The repression the UCA has faced is part of a broader government response since April 2018 when protests erupted against government inaction about a forest fire and proposed cuts to social security pensions. To date, government repression continues, hundreds of government critics have been killed, jailed, exiled, and had their citizenship revoked, and hundreds of thousands of Nicaraguans have fled their country.
|Dates||Summary||Additional information and links to news articles|
|18 April & 30 May 2018||In the Spring of 2018, protests concerning governmental response to fires in the Indio-Maiz biological reserve and proposed alterations to social security erupt, eventually evolving into anti-government protests. Many protests take place around the Universidad Centroamericana, and eventually, police and paramilitary youth crack down on the protesters, injuring many and destroying university property. The Universidad Centroamericana takes the step of opening its campus to protesters for their safety.||
Police and paramilitary youth respond violently to protests at the front gate of the UCA, many protesters injured, and some university property destroyed. The UCA opened its campus to protesters fleeing police and paramilitaries.
05/27/2018: Para-Police attack at UCA
05/30/2018: Refuge at UCA
|Mid to late 2018||Nicaraguan government continues aggression against UCA||
Following the eruption of protests and the government crackdown, the government begins to act hostile toward the UCA, obstructing the importation of key educational materials and cutting its state funding by 25%. This begins to detrimentally affect the university’s functioning
Late 2018: Educational imports begin to be detained at customs, and exemptions are not applied, generating substantial losses.
|2019||In 2019, the government moves to take further action against the UCA. It maintains police presence around its
properties and continues to obstruct the release of educational imported materials. It also begins to refuse the renewals of licenses and certifications for the UCA. Finally, it further cuts the original funding for the UCA down by 45%. In the same year, the rector, José Idiáquez, begins to receive death threats.
1. Government maintains police cordon around the UCA
2. Government continues to refuse the release of materials at customs for the UCA
3. José Idiáquez, UCA president, granted protective measures by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights due to government threats.
|2020 to mid 2023||The oppression of the university ramps up even further. When President and Rector José Idiáquez leaves the country to go to Mexico for health reasons, he tries to renew his passport to return to Nicaragua, but the renewal is refused and he is left stranded, eventually applying for asylum in Mexico. The government continues to refuse to release imports and renew certifications and takes the extra step of conducting invasive audits and legally harassing the UCA. The university receives another blow when Jorge Huete, vice-rector, is denied re-entry to Nicaragua after leaving for a university-related trip to Argentina.||
1. Government refuses to renew passport of UCA president while out of the country; he seeks political asylum in Mexico.
2. Government maintains police cordon around the UCA.
3. Government continues to refuse the release of materials at customs for the UCA.
4. Government refuses to allow the UCA to renew licenses and certifications and starts using this against the UCA saying they are not legally compliant. THus ensues multiple audits and legal harassment.
5. By the end of 2021, government had cut 99% of state funding to the UCA.
6. Universidad Centroamericana expelled from the National Council of Universities (which it was a founding member of) & massive budget cuts.
7. On August 24, 2022, Jorge Huete, UCA senior VP, not allowed to return to Nicaragua from an academic conference in Argentina; currently in the USA.
Nicaragua moves to attack universities even more – Washington Post notes a slashing of subsidies at UCA
|15 August 2023||Nicaraguan judge emits a decision indicating that all real estate, infrastructure, and financial resources have been seized and belong to the Nicaraguan state.||
Over the span of about a week, the government begins to move quickly, freezing and seizing all of the UCA’s financial and physical assets that are present in Nicaragua, claiming them for the Nicaraguan state.
|16 August 2023||The UCA announces they’re suspending all administrative and academic activities.||
In a massive blow, the Ortega government finally moves to shut down the Universidad Centroamericana (as it had previously done to many other private universities), suspending all the UCA’s operations. It later takes the step of creating another university on the UCA’s campus, which the regime names “Universidad Casimiro Sotelo Montenegro”.
08/16/2023: Ortega gov’t seizes the Universidad Centroamericana in its entirety, forcing it to suspend all operations and shut down.
|19 August 2023||The Nicaraguan government expels 8 Jesuits from their residence near the UCA campus.||
On August 19, 2023, Nicaraguan police and other legal officers seize the Jesuit residence Villa Carmen from the Jesuits (a property close to the UCA campus), expelling the priests-in-residence.
08/19/2023: Police & judiciary officials seize Villa Carmen residence near UCA, expelling the priests-in-residence.
|23 August 2023||The Nicaraguan government cancels the legal status of the Jesuits in Nicaragua.||
08/23/2023: Gov’t declares Jesuit order illegal, orders confiscation of all of its property in Nicaragua
To note, however, Jesuit presence continues - article states that 11 still remain:
On August 23, 2023, the Ortega regime declares the Jesuit order illegal in Nicaragua and orders the confiscation of all Jesuit properties in Nicaragua.
International Response: The Jesuits of Central America are calling for solidarity from the international community demanding rule of law and respect for human rights in Nicaragua and the safe treatment of UCA students and employees, an impartial investigation into the false charges brought against the UCA, and the return of the UCA to the Jesuits.